Yay! Just when all hope is abandoned for an intriguing Council seat contest in November Kevin Morrison comes into the fray. At the recent candidates’ forum in the Ultragenyx auditorium in Bel Marin Keys, Morrison proved to be a silver-tongued political bomb thrower.
The two candidates in District 3, incumbent (8 years) Eric Lucan and Kevin Morrison
are polar opposites. Morrison is loose as a goose, whereas Lucan is predictable, measured and is usually wearing a business jacket. Morrison varies his garb from non-tucked shirt and jeans to casual country gentleman attire. You never know what sartorial version of Morrison will appear – assume nothing.
Eric Lucan, along with Denise Athas and Josh Fryday (aka The Triad), are responsible and forever stained with creating the current City Manager scandal which finds soon-to-be-ex City Manager Regan Candelario placed on “administrative leave” by a Council vote of 5-0. When the Lucan-Athas-Fryday Triad voted with Pat Eklund and Pam Drew on a potentially controversial issue, you can be sure that hell just froze over or the end of Regan Candelario’s career in Novato is a foregone conclusion.
For over 18 months Councilmembers Pat Eklund and Pam Drew have sounded the alarm that something appeared rotten with City Hall finances. The clueless and lazy Triad arrogantly refused to address the financial issues raised by Drew and Eklund.
Drew and Eklund turned out to be right. The Triad was guilty of a monumental lack of due diligence while in office.
The frustratingly passive Triad continued to carelessly approve deficit spending on additional feel-good social expenditures rather than on the nuts and bolts business of running a city, such as removing graffiti. Spending ever more money, the Triad authorized another Assistant City Manager position and a reshuffling of personnel that resulted in effectively creating a personal Assistant to the City Manager position. This expensive additional administrative overhead was created despite the fact that Novato is not a full-service city as most cities are.
The City of Novato does not provide fire, water, or wastewater services as do full-service cities. The City of Novato’s annual budget is approximately $41 million. The Novato Fire District’s budget is an incredible $30 million. Novato’s North Marin Water District operating budget is $22 million. Novato’s Sanitation District operating budget is $21 million. Yet, Novato’s City Manager’s total pay is $232,000 for the $41 million budget while a San Rafael City Manager’s is $250,000 for a $79 million budget. The San Rafael City Manager’s benefits package is larger than Novato’s.
Candelario had not been able to keep or find a Finance Director for over a year. Additionally, existing key senior finance personnel decided to retire. Michael Antwine was hired by Candelario as a newly minted Assistant City Manager in charge of the City’s finances. Antwine has degrees in Public Administration, not accounting. This is not an attractive situation for prospective new hires or senior finance staff members who were already coping with unfilled positions in their group.
Inexplicitly, Candelario hired two temporary financial consultants whose resume’s sported serious ethical problems with previous employers all of which is publicly documented and available online. Candelario said he solely relied on the suppliers of the temps’ consultants to provide people with the appropriate background, which if true, was a major mistake on his part.
Agencies posing as “consultants” who also supply contract consultants and/or temps inherently have a conflict of interest. To not independently verify a contract financial consultant’s qualifications is extremely risky and an unacceptable management oversight – especially when it involves taxpayers’ money and an already stressed finance staff.
Eklund and Drew were alarmed at the lack of financial transparency and absence of coherent explanations by City Manager Candelario. They were consistently rebuffed by the Triad when they requested the Council take a closer look at “questionable” financial practices by City Hall and City Manager Candelario.
Candelario stonewalled Drew and Eklund’s direct requests to him for clarification and explanation of the circumstances under which some city funds were being spent and allocated. The sources of concern and information upon which Drew and Eklund based their requests could have been City Hall staffers who had become increasingly uncomfortable with frequent questionable internal financial manipulations by Candelario. Some may have felt if they continued to ignore the situation any longer, it could be interpreted as corruption, and they as staff, would be caught up in an investigation and tagged as being complicit.
Concurrently, Drew and Eklund had been experiencing months of relentless public and social media accusations of “being uncivil” and “displaying bullying behavior” by political allies of the Lucan-Athas-Fryday Triad who backed Candelario’s dismissive “explanations” 100%. The Triad shares the blame for what happened, along with Candelario. The Triad became and is part of “the problem”.
In support of the Triad’s inaction and attempts to intimidate and muzzle Drew and Eklund, Marla Fields and her pack of accomplices used a complicit Marin IJ as a broadcast media platform from which to attack Drew and Eklund. Marla’s mob launched a series of very personal attacks against Drew with unusually nasty Letters to the Editor as part of a gaslighting campaign questioning Drew and Eklund’s mental fitness. Ridiculous accusations portraying Drew and Eklund as “uncivil bullies” followed. Anyone who knows Drew would be completely mystified by that charge.
Fields and her political cohorts then initiated a move for censure by the Council of Drew and Eklund.
The November 27, 2018 City Council meeting minutes contain under Public Comments:
The following individuals expressed their concerns about Mayor Pro Tem Drew: Jennifer Goldfinger, Suzanne Nation (who provided a petition of up to 200 signatures), Thomas Engdahl, Erin Lacey, Joan Rentsch, Jessica Defreese, Melissa Ahern, Marla Fields, Suzanne Crow, Jerry Peters, and Michelle Greer.
In the short term, the wickedness almost succeeded. A massive effort to generate momentum to recall the “uncivil” Eklund began. Drew was relentlessly castigated on adversarial local social media sites and on political blogs. It was a well-orchestrated stratagem by supporters of a bitter and vengeful County Supervisor Judy Arnold who has never recovered from almost losing a reelection race to political newcomer Toni Shroyer, who Pam Drew supported. Arnold’s near loss was an almost fatal blow to her self-esteem.
Fortunately for Novato, Councilmembers Drew and Eklund refused to be intimidated and pursued their quest for Candelario to explain and justify his secretive operation. The Triad recognized an opportunity to inflict a major hurt on Mayor Pro Tem Drew. Under the cover of the on-going noisy, relentless character bashing by the Fields group’s campaign targeting Drew and Eklund, the sadistic Lucan-Athas-Fryday Triad decided to ignore existing protocol and voted to deny Pam Drew, the next-in-line Mayor Pro Tem, the historically automatic elevation to Mayor. It was pure meanness as Drew had received more votes than Lucan in the 2017 election.
The very public kneecapping of Drew conveniently enabled the Triad’s sham “Mayor” Lucan to potentially run in the forthcoming Council race this November as Mayor Lucan against a “rejected” Councilmember Drew. The move was political treachery in its rawest form and established a new low point in Novato City Council ethics. Is Novato going to accept this disgusting behavior by its elected representatives who supposedly reflect the morals and values of the City?
Novato’s County Supervisor Judy Arnold must have smiled in her sleep. She hates Eklund and Drew, especially Drew who defeated her political deckhand Jeanne MacLeamy in the 2017 City Council election.
Make no mistake – Arnold, with the aid of the Novato Chamber of Commerce, has run Novato’s City Hall for years and intends to keep it that way despite the threat posed by the recent change to district elections intended to give neighborhoods a clear voice in how their city is run. The Chamber’s canned response is “What is good for the downtown members of the Chamber of Commerce is good for the rest of the City of Novato”.
Arnold and the Chamber intend to buy key district elections using the Chamber’s PAC funds and Arnold’s County union connections and funds to overwhelm any truly independent district candidates. Their greatest fear is that neighborhoods will elect independent Councilmembers free of the Chamber’s monetary support and subsequent controlling influence.
As part of Arnold’s strategic agenda to maintain political control of Novato while sitting in her County Supervisor office in San Rafael, she will employ political operative Marla Fields and her posse of “gaslighters” to continue to target independent opponents in the local and county media. A particularly sinister tactic will be to continue to launch, using social media, such as Facebook and bogus “concerned citizens” websites, vicious public character assassination campaigns on good innocent people.
The problem for sham-Mayor Lucan is Eklund and Drew were right about drawing attention to Candelario’s devious behavior as City Manager. This point was brought front and center by a fearless Kevin Morrison at the recent Council candidates’ forum.
There was serious outbreak of squirming in their seats by the Triad’s supporters in attendance when Morrison called for a round of applause for Drew in recognition that Drew was right all along as recently ex-City Manager Candelario had been relieved of his duties, placed on “administrative leave” by a 5-0 Council vote, and replaced by Novato’s Chief of Police Adam McGill who assumed the duties of Acting Novato City Manager. The applause was sparse as the Triad’s supporters were too busy “eating their own words”. Kudos to Kevin Morrison for recognizing true grit by Drew and Eklund.
Kevin would potentially be a loose cannon as a Councilmember. However, he does think outside the box promoting thought-provoking ideas and initiatives that contrast remarkably with the predictable, expensive and stale feel-good ideas that “excite” members of the Triad. The prospect of Kevin Morrison being the pivotal vote on a split City Council must terrify members of the Supervisor Arnold-Novato Chamber of Commerce political axis.
In Morrison’s prior attempt at election to the Council he basically self-financed his campaign. He had no political posse with money to spend. As a communications professional, his social media communications were more interesting and provocative and instantly grabbed the attention of otherwise casually interested voters. His style and irreverent humor struck a responsive chord with younger voters.
Surprisingly, even the Machiavellian County Supervisor Judy Arnold threw $400 into Morrison’s campaign kitty in the 2017 election. Perhaps she meant it for her obedient political servant Lucan and missed her target.
Older voters described him as pleasant and likable. Morrison thrived in the political theater of an election campaign. Within the smaller sized district elections Morrison has a better chance to succeed on a personal level. The Novato Chamber of Commerce will do anything and everything necessary to defeat Morrison and preserve their control of the Council. Morrison’s opponent in District 3 is Triad member Lucan, a long-time political servant of the Chamber.
One adjective that does not apply to Kevin Morrison is dull. He seems to never run out of “new ideas” that rattle the somnolent Council Triad’s political cages.
If the Council was split between two Chamber of Commerce robots and two independents, with Kevin Morrison as the potential tiebreaker vote, it would be anything but boring in Novato politics. Council meetings may actually feature debates rather than coronations. With Kevin around it may be time to reboot the robots and make City politics once again interesting.
The question is, will Kevin Morrison make a responsible Councilmember if elected? Only Kevin knows.
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